About DMS - fear of heresy ?

Jurriaan Bendien bendien at tomaatnet.nl
Thu Jul 24 22:57:36 MDT 2003

Louis wrote:

In any case, it probably does not make sense to spend a lot of time in
debate with him since his views are not reflective of any significant
section of the movement today. For people who were around in the 60s like
me, you will remember that this was not the case back then.


I think you need people like DMS, I've argued with him, and is capable of a
reasonable response, and shrewd insights from which I can learn. If you
start to panic about doctrinal fidelity too much, you lose the plot, which
is that listmembers ought to complement each other and hammer out
controversies through dialogue and debate, so that all relevant aspects of
the controversy are suitably illuminated. None of us can claim to possess
the whole truth.  If anyone makes claims about Marxism or true socialism
which are bunk, our task is of course to show why and how specifically, not
to panic about somebody talking gibberish. Of course, too much gibberish is
a distraction, but I don't think you can say DMS falls into that category.
Ah, but who am I to say this, being a heterodox socialist and not a
certified Marxist ?

But why this fear of dissent anyway ? Wasn't the exaggerated paranoia about
political dissent one of the important factors which destroyed a lively
critical and self-critical political culture in the USSR and within the
communist movement generally ? If somebody becomes genuinely obstructive,
abusive in a vile way, violating any reasonable norm of civil conduct, or is
merely content to issue rightwing cant, then obviously this list is not the
place for his messages. But DMC does show a concern with the politics of
social classes, with Marx, with the working class, with socialism, so why
boot him off ? People go through different phases, moods, developments,
changes. One ought to not act arbitrarily, but keep a friend, supporter or
an acquaintance, who might later make a very good contribution, rather than
boot him off for doctrinal heresies, real or alleged, on the basis of what
happens in a day or a few days. Our aim is after all to strengthen the Left,
and we do not do this by saying to other socialists with whom we disagree
that we do not wish to talk with them anymore, because of aggrieved
sensibilities, rather we say that for the moment we cannot dialogue
together, and people ought to hold their horses, take a break from the
keyboard, maybe at a future moment a new convergence can occur.

This obsession with punishments, expulsions, ideological corrections and so
forth does not help us one iota in advancing a lively, critical and
self-critical, democratic socialist culture, in which space always exists to
say what needs to be said. Our task is to train in superior political
argument, and lead through superior political argument, not to silence
critics with expulsion and excommunication. If we are unable to do so, there
is absolute no hope for the socialist movement, and we might as well pack
up, go away and tend our gardens like good conservatives who are a bit past
it. Or, if even gardening can be revolutionised, as implicated by David
McDonald, perhaps I should refer to "old folks homes for retired radicals".


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